Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

3.28. Ugh! Do I really have to learn UNIX?

As you explore the Internet, chances are that you will use a computer system that works with the UNIX operating system. If you're familiar only with DOS or Macintosh computers, trying to use UNIX can make you feel like a stranger in a strange land. Read on and you will have a better understanding of the basics of UNIX. Also, you'll learn how to find more information about UNIX when you need it.

To access a UNIX system, you'll need the system administrators to set up your very own account. Every person who is authorized to use a particular UNIX system has an account; when you want to use the computer, you tell it your account name and a secret password. The computer uses this information to verify who you are, give you access to the information that belongs to you, and keep others out of your files. If you're legit, you'll see the UNIX prompt, the sign that the computer is ready to take a command.

If you use DOS, you're familiar with a prompt like C:\ >. UNIX prompts vary from system to system, but yours is most likely to be a dollar sign ($) or a percentage sign (%).

When you log on, you may also see the system message of the day (or MOTD, pronounced mot-dee) announcing anything the system administrator thinks you need to know. You may also see a message if you have any unread electronic mail.

To log off the system, simply type logout. It is important to do this to tell the computer that you don't plan to use it for a while. This prevents others from walking up to your terminal and looking through your files.

The following is an example of logging onto a UNIX system.

login: savetz
Unix System V Release 3.1 AT&T 3B2
Copyright (c) 1984 AT&T
All Rights Reserved

Last login: Sat Dec 26 20:49:52 on ttyp1

              *Welcome to BigCorp's Big Powerful Unix computer*
             This machine is provided solely for authorized use.
         * System will be down from 2AM - 3AM Tuesday for maintenance *

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